Many of the techniques used in both stage hypnosis and clinical hypnosis can be the same or very similar, however the key difference between stage hypnosis and positive hypnosis are about who chooses to get hypnotised and who benefits from the process.
Just like a pharmacist, a drug dealer distributes medication and chemicals which affect the person using them. However, the dealer is solely interested in themselves. Similarly the stage hypnotist does no assessment on the psychological and physical wellbeing of the participant before asking someone to engage in hypnosis and ultimately is more interested in giving the audience an entertaining evening instead of how the participant may be affected during or after the show’, whereas the hypnotherapist uses the same skills entirely for the client. They do not use the client for their own ends but will only work for the client and withdraw treatment if they cannot offer a clinical reason for continuing with any treatments.
A stage hypnotist is paid to entertain the audience, to give the audience a fun evening and to meet the expectations of the audience. The audience want to experience a fun, light evening where volunteers act foolishly whilst in trance.
To make sure the volunteers give an entertaining performance the hypnotist uses a few techniques to generate a greater desire for people to get on stage and with it a desire to meet the expectations of the audience. Firstly, they will ask the audience to undertake some simple suggestibility techniques. This allows the stage hypnotist to eliminate any audience members who will not be very entertaining
From here the stage hypnotist will invite some volunteers up to the stage and will get them to compete for a limited number of places on stage.
Those using stage hypnosis have been known to use some underhand ways to get people to make the stage hypnotist look good. Paul McKenna cites a story of when a stage hypnotist discreetly said to a volunteer that he would give him £50 for “giving a great performance”. At the end of the show, he told him and the audience that “When you wake up you will be convinced that I owe you fifty pounds and you will get more annoyed and insistent about it”.
In stage hypnosis, to raise the compliance of those selected to go on stage, hypnotists can set the stage out so that there are fewer spaces on stage than people selected, so already people are being invited to compete. Hypnotists can also tell people that boring people will be rejected as it would spoil everyone’s evening and that people have paid a lot of money tonight and if you don’t want people to think you are boring you need to be entertaining.
The focus on entertainment has resulted in some hypnotists being sued for failing to keep the volunteers safe whilst on stage.
These approaches demonstrate that hypnotists unlike hypnotherapists have a focus on entertainment and not the wellbeing of those being hypnotised.
With hypnotherapy, it is the client who chooses the hypnotherapist, not the other way around, whilst therapists will only refuse to treat patients where there is an ethical reason for not treating a client. Unlike stage hypnotists the use of hypnosis is discussed with the client, treatment is unique to each client and informed consent is essential so that there is no coercion to maintain hypnosis. The hypnotherapist should explain the process, giving as much time to the client’s needs as is necessary, encourage the client to withdraw if the treatment is not something they want to continue with and focus on building a positive, trusting and respectful relationship such that the client has the best possibility of treatment outcomes.
So when looking at what the differences are between a stage hypnotists and those who practise positive hypnosis and hypnotherapy, there are some similarities in terms of techniques, but the differences are mainly centred around the application of the techniques, the ethical and moral framework in their use and how the client or patient is involved in the process of their treatment.